It’s been a long road trip for Utah.

After playing five games in eight days, including leaving the country, the Jazz have been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak within the organization that’s severely hampered the team’s depth.

With six players out due to health and safety protocols against Detroit, it came as no surprise that Utah found itself locked in a tight game on Monday night. Despite impressive efforts from Donovan Mitchell and Hassan Whiteside, the Jazz capped off its five-game road trip by falling 126-116 to the Pistons.

“Our goal is to be the best version of ourselves at the end of the year,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “This game needs to help focus us. I think we are better than what we showed tonight. … Also, some things for us to internalize and review.”

“We are fooling ourselves to say we want to win a championship, and we have a night like tonight,” Mitchell added.

Playing without regular rotation players Rudy Gobert, Rudy Gay, and Joe Ingles meant that a massive burden would fall on both Mitchell and Whiteside to produce. 

Neither of them disappointed. 

Mitchell finished with a game-high 31 points, including 21 in the second half to keep the Jazz alive throughout the final 24 minutes. He added four assists, three rebounds, and two steals as well.

With Gobert out, it meant that Whiteside was going to be called upon to make a difference in the middle. 

After struggling in Saturday’s game against Indiana, Whiteside looked highly engaged on both ends of the court and had his best performance in a Utah uniform. He finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks, shooting 10-of-15 from the floor and punishing the Pistons in the paint. 

Despite the long road trip, the Jazz came out playing exceptionally well on both ends of the court in the opening 12 minutes.

Utah jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back, leading 35-21 after the first. Mitchell and Whiteside combined for 17 points to get the Jazz going as the offense was crisp with eight assists. 

Mike Conley knocked down a pair of free throws midway through the second quarter to give Utah a 22-point lead, its biggest of the night. But that’s when Detroit battled back, finding a rhythm on offense as the Jazz went cold from the field. 

Utah still led 61-48 at the break.

The third quarter is where Utah’s traveling began to show as the Jazz came out sluggish and never appeared to find their footing over the final 24 minutes. The Pistons roared back to take a four-point lead heading into the fourth quarter as Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey combined for 28 points in the third. 

“We gotta guard, man,” Mitchell said. “We gotta just guard the ball. … There is not much else to it.”

After Detroit ran its lead to six early in the fourth, Utah responded with an 8-0 run to lead 92-90 with just under 10 to play. But that was the last time they led as the Pistons slowly pulled away for the victory.

“I think at the beginning of the third quarter, we didn’t take care of the ball and gave them some easy stuff, which I thought helped build their confidence,” Snyder said. “Our whole group knows how people perceive our team and how they can attack us. … I think we are better defensively than what we showed tonight.”

Conley finished with 13 points, eight assists, five rebounds, and a team-high +10 rating. Jordan Clarkson added 16 points and five rebounds off the bench, while Eric Paschall added 13 points. 

Utah returns to the comfortable confines of Vivint Arena for a midweek game against Cleveland. Tipoff for Wednesday is set for 7 p.m. MST.


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